|The famous photograph by which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was taken in|
|The Eyewitness Phenomenon|
Anyone who has questioned witnesses to a crime or accident knows there are almost as many versions of what happened as there are people who saw it. Are those with the most outlandish stories consciously trying to mislead investigators? By no means. They have merely been impressed by a dramatic event which induces them to indulge in grandiose expressions of compassion, pity and anger. Allowing some unusual or tragic event to furnish an excuse for self-dramatization is a common human failing. In most cases the effect is comical or transparent; in rare cases the desire for bending someone’s ear is so great that it can alter the event itself. Sometimes the passive observer claims that he was actually a participant, thereby assuming the role of hero or victim, whichever seems more appropriate.
Fortunately there are chemicals, polygraph machines, hypnosis, and cross-examinations under oath to assist in separating fact from fantasy. To my knowledge, however, Elie Wiesel, the most famous living eyewitness, has never been subjected to any of the above.
Even after we dismiss the obvious charlatans, there remains a residue of people who claim to have seen what, unless the laws of physics are turned upside down, could not have possibly occurred. What is it that energizes the loose tongues of these tellers of tall tales? The answer is to be found in the mechanics of perception.
The New York Times (August 31, 1993, Science Section) reported that interesting new research explains how people “can confuse what is real and what is imagined, raising questions about witnesses’ testimony and memory itself.” If we are primed to see an apple, the sight of its various fragments can drive the system into producing the image of an apple...” Priming the mind’s eye to see what isn’t there is easily accomplished by introducing emotional stress. The article continues:
Imagine seeing a man standing before a frightened store clerk and you assume that a robbery is under way. It is dark and his hand is in the shadows. Because you expect to see a gun, your thresholds are lowered. As far as your brain is concerned, it saw a gun....
As it turned out, however, it wasn’t a gun.
Luckily... inputs from the eye tend to be... stronger than inputs from imagination. But on a dark night, under certain circumstances, it is easy to be fooled by one’s own brain.
Europe, in the 1940s, was a dark night for millions of Jews, who were plucked from their comfortable homes and thrown into labor camps. They lost their wealth, privacy and dignity. Their heads were shaved, and their arms were tattooed. Their clothes were put into gas chambers, to be deloused with hydrocyanic acid (Zyklon B). Jews, young and old, were sent to cold barracks where they had to live with criminals. A few passed by overworked crematoria where the backlog of corpses was a frightening spectacle. In this hellish environment the imaginations of inmates ran wild. To the traumatized and physically weakened internees, the corpses were victims of Gentile persecution. The spent Zyklon B canisters on barracks’ floors became incontrovertible proof that humans were being gassed.
It should be noted that since the Germans never had DDT, Zyklon B had to be used as a general fumigant. The extensive use of this dangerous pesticide was necessitated by the presence of typhus-bearing lice. The threat of this ferocious disease was never eliminated from the camps, because successive waves of Russian laborers were always reintroducing it. Typhus would ultimately kill tens of thousands of inmates.
Far removed from conditions of compulsory labor service, Jews in lands not conquered by the Germans advanced their own political agendas by embellishing and disseminating the worst of the horror stories. In order to take advantage of the privileges which devolve upon officially recognized victims and in order to profit directly from the public’s appetite for the lurid, grotesque and horrific, a holocaust industry emerged in those countries whose citizens were most prone to feelings of guilt and atonement.
The result is the worldwide belief in homicidal gas chambers. The physical impossibility of the Six Million is beside the point. What matters is that we should never attack the amour propre of a group preoccupied with feeling sorry for itself.
It is a basic rule of polite society to avoid confrontational assertions that are apt to produce discord and expose a lack of compassion on the part of the confronter. So, for the sake of social harmony we accept the delusions of others, rather than risk accusations of being uncaring. But when we give credence to the deluded and hysterical imaginings of Holocaust fanatics, we are letting them distort our sense of history and pervert our better judgment. By being sensitive to the feelings of other groups, the more conscientious among us may arrive at conclusions that are not fully in accord with our own best interests.
Without taking into account the social forces and personal motives that make people replace fact with fancy, the Times article concluded optimistically:
It is amazing that imagination and reality are not confused more often, said Dr. Marcia Johnson, a Princeton psychologist who in her laboratory can make people swear that they heard or saw things that never happened. In general, she said, images are fuzzier and less coherent than real memories, and humans are able to differentiate [between] them by how plausible they seem.
Nine times out of ten this is probably true. But consider the history of Jews in the diaspora. Rabbis have traditionally kept their communities in line with tales of Gentile brutality. Secular Jews have had to deal with host nations, either by exaggerating the benefits of the Jewish presence or by skilfully appealing to the non-Jews’ sense of justice and mercy, whenever the public mood turned ugly. In the course of their long history of dispersion among the nations of the world, a strong selective pressure has favored those Jews with an ability to invent or manipulate what passes for the truth.
That Jews have developed a special talent for fantasy and propaganda is not as important as the fact that we hold them to the same standards of objectivity we impose on everyone else. It is our susceptibility to their orchestrated hysteria (and organized intimidation) that has kept us from critically evaluating their claims.
Those at the receiving end of Holocaust propaganda must start behaving like realists and scientists. When something is physically impossible, we should say so. Every quirk and shortcoming, every weakness and inconsistency, should be exposed without the slightest hesitation. Above all, we must constantly confront the weepers and the special pleaders.
When eyewitnesses to impossible events are understood to be victims of their own state of mind, the aura of saintliness which protects them will vanish. Our natural curiosity and impatience with humbug will do the rest. Fear and vengeance authored a fairy tale that became a deadly weapon. Logical thought and an inquisitive mind will disarm the weapon and demystify the myth.
From The Revisionist Newsletter, No. 10 (Summer 1994), Historical Review Press, Brighton, Sussex